House Tees Up Slate of Telecom Bills Ahead of Senate Commerce Votes

The House is set to pass several uncontroversial telecom measures Monday, ranging from a bill that would bolster communications networks during natural disasters to one aimed at improving call reliability in rural areas.

On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote on five bills that closely mirror some of the House measures. Among the House bills slated to receive a vote Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee will take up S. 96, legislation identical to H.R. 460, the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act.

The Senate panel is also expected to vote Tuesday on legislation that closely tracks with the Anti-Spoofing Act (H.R. 423), the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act (H.R. 290), the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act (H.R. 588) and Kari’s Law Act (H.R. 582).

The Senate versions would need to be reconciled with the House bills before being sent to the White House, and the Senate committee plans to stick with its versions for now.

“At this time, we do not anticipate changing the text of our bills at tomorrow’s markup due to the scheduled House votes,” Senate Commerce Committee spokeswoman Lauren Hammond said in an email.

Here is a summary of the measures moving through the House on Monday and through the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday:

  • The Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act would require the FCC to publish reports assessing the competition in the communications marketplace and outline its agenda every two years. The FCC would post the reports on its website and send copies to Congress. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) sponsors the House version, while Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) back the Senate bill.
  • The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act would require phone service providers to register with the FCC and comply with to-be-established standards to improve phone call reliability in rural regions.
  • The Anti-Spoofing Act would expand a prohibition on falsifying a caller ID to voice call or text messages from individuals outside the United States if the recipient is in the United States. Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee, sponsors the Senate version, which enjoys bipartisan support.
  • The Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act would direct the FCC to study the public safety benefits and cost of creating Wi-Fi hotspots to enable public access to 911 services during natural disasters or other instances where mobile service is unavailable.
  • Kari’s Law Act would require multiline phone systems such as those used in hospitals, schools and hotels to connect directly to 911 without the need to first dial “9” or any other numbers. The bill enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate.

The House passed the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act, the Anti-Spoofing Act and Kari’s Law Act in the 114th Congress, but the bills never received votes on the Senate floor. The Anti-Spoofing Act and Kari’s Law Act were approved by the Senate Commerce Committee as part of a reauthorization package for the FCC in the 114th Congress, but that measure also never reached the Senate floor. The Senate panel in June approved a version of the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act, which did not receive a vote from the full Senate.

Morning Consult